Tuesday 18 August 2009

A Tale of Two Tyrannies

There were similarities between the Third Reich and the German Democratic Republic inasmuch as they were both based on a rejection of the liberal tradition; both based on a single ideology and a monolithic ruling party; both on the same coercive forms of social control.

But the differences were far greater than the similarities. National Socialism was regressive and backwards, defined as a repressive cult of power, and no more than a cult of power. The GDR, even at its most oppressive, drew its logic and inspiration from transcendent notions of human liberation, which made its internal contradictions all the greater. It was forced constantly to dissimulate, prevaricate and explain; to justify itself by forms of ideology in every sense alien to that of National Socialism. The Nazi state, moreover, was based on an unstable combination of charisma and mass engagement. The GDR was based on boredom and bureaucratic torpor. One died of excess; the other died of senility.

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